By Martin Smith | 2 June 2014
A funny thing happened to me this week. I paid five dollars to enter a raffle a homeless man had set up outside the Detroit Electronic Music festival. Unusually for me, I won: it was a tatty copy of John Coltrane’s “Love Supreme”. I couldn’t think of a more perfect prize.
All my favourite albums and rereleases this month were selected before I left for Detroit and therefore it’s all about the soul. I hope you find among them at least something that you will enjoy.
1. Fatima Yellow Memories (Eglo 2014) CD/vinyl
If you like Erykah Badu or Jill Scott, then you will love Fatima’s Yellow Memories.
Fatima Bramme Sey is a Swede living in London. This is adventurous music, which is helped along nicely by her producer collaborators, who include Theo Parrish, Scoop DeVille (Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg) and Floating Points.
This track is one of the highlights of the album.
2. Fatima Al Quadri Asiatisch (Hyperdub 2014) CD/vinyl
Another stunning album, but this record takes you on a musical journey you’ve probably never travelled before. This record toys with Western perceptions of China via pop culture. This is south east Asian music filtered through an American lens.
On “Dragon Tattoo”, Fatima Al Quadri sings lyrics that subtly spin lines from Lady and the Tramp’s highly recognizable “We Are Siamese” into an eerie R&B ballad.
The opening track, “Shanzhai”, is a cover version of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”. Fatima’s version is more haunting and beautiful than the original.
3. Little Dragon, Nabuma Rubberband (Seven Four Entertainment/Republic 2014) CD/vinyl
Little Dragon’s Ritual Union, was definitely one of my favourite pop albums of 2011. They return with their fourth studio album, Nabuma Rubberband. It references the group’s earlier records – but this pushes the boundaries of electronic soul even farther. It has echoes of 1980s Prince and Janet Jackson.
While there is a killer single – “Klapp Klapp” – this album requires some patience. But multiple listens reveal an eclectic concoction of synth-heavy beautiful songs.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM–TtkGNa4
4. Larry Heard, Alien (Alleviated Records 1996/2014) CD/vinyl
Larry Heard has been producing deep house music since the mid-1980s. He was leader of the influential group Fingers Inc. and has recorded solo under various names, most notably Mr. Fingers.
This album is directly inspired by the sci-fi film of the same name. Heard retains his familiar deep house sound but delves into sci-fi soundtracks, jazz-fusion and progressive rock to create a sound similar to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells – but in a good way.
5. Sam Dees, The Show Must Go On (Atlantic Records 1975) CD/vinyl rerelease
Sam Dees is best known for penning hits for Gladys Knight, George Benson, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations and Teddy Pendergrass.
Dees also recorded what many soul collectors rate as one of the best LPs of the ’70s, The Show Must Go On. It is a remarkable amalgam of Southern and Chicago soul.
Songs like “Child of the Streets”, “What’s it Gonna Be” and “Signed Miss Heroin” reflect life in the ghetto and echo Marvin Gaye’s classic album What’s Going On.
This album is as essential as What’s Going On and Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.
6. Madlib & Freddie Gibbs, Pinata (Madlib Invasion 2014) CD/Vinyl
No sooner does another music journalist fire out an article claiming rap is dead than Madlib fires out another album of exquisite musical dexterity.
This collaboration brings together Gibbs’ G-funk or soul-chromed Southern bounce and boom-bap-leaning East Coast beats with Madlib’s dank obscure soul breaks.
Warning: skip this album if you don’t like raw lyrics.
7. 50 Weapons, RMX 01 – 09 (50 Weapons 2014) CD/vinyl
A great electronic label that usually concentrates on singles, but this is an album full of remixes and surprises.
8. Aretha Franklin, This Girl’s In Love With You (Atlantic 1970) CD rerelease
This Girl’s In Love With You was the seventeenth studio album by Aretha Franklin. Released in 1970, it is an often-overlooked classic and sits alongside all the other great albums she recorded during this period. Nothing more needs to be said.
9. Sun Ra, Space is the Place (Decca (UMO 1974/1999) CD
If the musical genius Sun Ra were alive today, he would have been 100 years old!
He was a jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, poet and philosopher. He died in 1993 aged 79. During those 79 years he recorded over 1,000 songs and countless albums.
There is no better place to start than this album. Check out this short clip from the film of the same name.
10. Terre Thalmitz, Fagjazz (Comatonse Records 2014) Double CD
Imagine a record of deep penetrating and mesmerising music. Then imagine a record that challenges the relationship between artist and consumer, challenges sexual identity and finally explores Marxist concepts of class and materialism.
Fagjazz does this and so much more. Who the artist is and how you obtain this record is a journey you will have to make on your own. But if you take part in this voyage you will be rewarded mentally, spiritually and musically.
So this time find your own clip.